Home' InDaily : January 12th 2012 Contents 20
When the Queensland floods surged through the city in January
2011, killing at least 20 people and destroying tens of thousands
of homes, the hardest hit were those who were worse off to
begin with, said Flinders University urban planning expert Dr
According to the Senior Research Fellow at Flinders Southgate
Institute, where people live influences their health, wellbeing
and ability to feel socially included.
"In Brisbane, a lot of the people who built houses on the
floodplains were low-income earners and they probably built
there because the land was cheap," Dr Arthurson (pictured),
who specialises in Prevention, Promotion and Primary Health
"But when the floods hit they didn't have insurance so they
couldn't rebuild, and it was the same story with Hurricane
Katrina in the US -- the people who suffered the most were
already struggling to start with," she said.
The economic, health and social impacts of the environment
on vulnerable neighbourhoods is just one element of a new
research project being led by Dr Arthurson following a $591,408
award from the Australian Research Council's Future Fellows
As part of the four-year Fellowship, Dr Arthurson will explore
how housing and urban planning polices, including the creation
of new neighbourhoods and the rebuilding of old Housing
Trust areas, shape patterns of health and social inclusion within
Her field of research will investigate the drawbacks and benefits
of mixed income communities, the effects of bulldozing long-
established public housing suburbs and whether urban renewal
improves the reputation and stigma surrounding social housing.
The findings will be used to help the Federal Government
develop urban planning policies that consider the health and
social inclusion needs of the nation's most disadvantaged
"Despite a growing economy some neighbourhoods and
areas of Australian cities are marked by segregation and
concentrations of extremely poor residents," Dr Arthurson said.
"These residents typically experience lower life spans, higher
disease levels, unemployment and poorer physical and mental
health than the wider community," she said.
"So one of the arguments I'm interested in is whether we should
de-concentrate poverty -- if you're poor would your life chances
improve if you lived around higher income earners or are you
better off living around people like yourself?''
Dr Arthurson said her research would incorporate study trips
to compare housing models across the UK, US, Canada and
The ARC award will also fund two PhD scholarships, one
focusing on urban renewal and the other exploring the effects
of climate change, pollution and natural disasters on poor
equal healthy homes
A baffling medical condition whereby those affected ignore
everything on one side of their world is the focus of a $375,000
study headed by Flinders University researcher Tobias Loetscher.
Dr Loetscher from the School of Psychology is one of two
Flinders researchers who in November received the Australian
Research Council's inaugural Discovery Early Researcher Career
Award to pursue an area of international significance.
His three-year study, starting in 2012, aims to develop effective
treatments for spatial neglect -- an attentional disorder in which
damage to either hemisphere of the brain leaves its sufferers
unable to perceive, process or interact with one side of their
These patients behave as if one half of the world has ceased to
exist and ignore all objects and people on the side opposite the
brain lesion, resulting in bizarre behaviours such as only eating
food from one side of a plate or shaving only half the body.
While the exact number of people affected is unknown, Dr
Loetscher said spatial neglect occurs in roughly 40 per cent of
stroke victims with damage to the right side of their brain.
Flinders tackles medical 'black box'
Dr Tobias Loetscher
Flinders University researcher Dr Darryl Jones has just won a
$375,000 grant to find a way to make the production process
of electronic devices, fluorescent lights and neon signs more
The Research Associate based in the School of Chemical and
Physical Sciences is one of two Flinders academics who received
the Australian Research Council's inaugural Discovery Early
Career Researcher Award, announced on 14 November.
Beginning in 2012, the three-year grant will enable Dr Jones to
study the physical and chemical interactions found in plasmas
-- a highly reactive state of matter -- which are used to make
electronic devices, modify surfaces and create artificial light.
"At the moment a lot of plasma processing chemicals are
greenhouse gases that exist in the atmosphere for thousands of
years where they can absorb radiation and contribute to global
warming," Dr Jones said.
"So we're evaluating if novel gases can form plasmas that
will meet the technical requirements of emerging industries
without the long-term environmental impacts," he said.
Dr Jones said the focus of his research would be to study the
interactions that occur between particles commonly found in
industrial plasmas, namely electrons and free radicals, to find
out "what interactions control the properties we observe in
"Plasmas contain a lot of internal energy so we want to know
what particles contain more energy and which have less, and
how they transfer their energy," Dr Jones said.
"Plasma processing has traditionally been performed with an
incomplete understanding of the processes involved," he said.
"By improving this understanding we can refine our methods
and develop more energy efficient and cleaner technologies."
With plasma processing "a multibillion dollar industry", Dr Jones
said his study aimed to not only benefit the environment but
reduce costs associated with manufacturing new technologies.
"Creating and sustaining plasmas requires significant energy,
and given the large scale of the plasma-based industries any
improvement in plasma energy efficiency is going to make a
huge difference to a company's energy usage," he said.
"Currently we're the only people in the world who are studying
the electron interactions with highly-reactive radicals so this
area of research is quite unique in a worldwide context."
"Currently there are no proven effective treatments for this
condition -- some therapies work for some patients but not for
all and that's because there are different subtypes of neglect,"
the Postdoctoral Research Fellow said.
"For instance there's motor neglect which prevents people from
using one side of their body, or perceptual neglect in which
patients cannot pay attention to anything on their damaged
side," he said.
"So you can't look at it as a homogenous condition because
the treatments that are available, including non-invasive brain
stimulation and cognitive rehabilitation, might only work
depending on what subtype your neglect falls into."
Using mainly behavioural-based studies, Dr Loetscher will
evaluate a person's ability to perform visual-motor tasks such as
bisecting a line, copying simple drawings and identifying letters
in a group with the aim of developing tests to "disentangle the
different subtypes of neglect".
In order to achieve his long-term goal of finding effective
therapies for spatial neglect, Dr Loetscher said the first and
most important step is to understand the inner-workings of the
brain, namely how the brain selects information, how space is
represented and how it processes locations and objects.
This part of the research will involve brain studies of healthy
subjects in the Brain and Cognition Laboratory at Flinders,
working with Professor Mike Nicholls.
The results, he said, could also be used to tackle other similar
conditions such as attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and
"Before we can even consider treatments we need to
understand how the neural mechanisms controlling
spatial attention operate in a healthy brain, and how these
mechanisms are altered after brain damage," he said.
"Currently this area is a black box, we have treatments but they
aren't that effective so that's why it's important to understand
how the brain works -- and what can go wrong."
Dr Darryl Jones
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